Joining Jack hope the addition of England standout Andy Farrell can help with the rudiments of rugby union, writes Paul Radley.
Andy Farrell joins up with Joining Jack for Dubai Sevens campaign
Here is the problem. Your pick-up side for the Dubai Rugby Sevens has a fair bit of talent, no doubt, but a chronic misunderstanding of most of the fundamentals of the union code.
Last year, on debut in the competition, the final was within reach but too many yellow cards and too many players committing to the breakdown conspired against you.
How do you remedy the situation? If you are Joining Jack, the most obvious answer is to recruit the present England assistant coach, a man held in such regard he was part of the victorious British & Irish Lions staff in the summer.
And, seeing as Andy Farrell played a bit in his time, too, get him to have a run out. Why not? It is just the way this all-star charity vets team roll.
“We’ll have a bit of a chat about a few of the rules,” Farrell, the former dual-code international, said about Joining Jack’s attempt to improve on last year’s showing in Dubai.
“The game is so short anyway, time-wise, so you can’t be giving penalties away because of a rugby league background.
“The referees will be looking for it to see if we know the rules, and it is important if we are going to play the rugby we want to that we are going to be disciplined as well.”
As for the rest of the game plan, might as well stick with the tried and tested. Recruit a celebrity water boy – this time Martin Offiah instead of Sir Bradley Wiggins, who is unavailable this weekend.
Then chuck the ball to Jason Robinson, probably England’s greatest attacking player in the sport, and hope he does the business. Easy.
“We have a bit more of an idea now,” said Paul Sculthorpe, a remnant of last year’s squad who was a union rookie back then and acknowledged he was nervous before the event.
“We’ve drafted in [Farrell], which gives us a bit of knowledge and we have been trying to learn a bit and get some more rugby union information than we did last year.
“Of all the rugby league boys, there weren’t many who had played union before last year. Hopefully, we will be a bit clearer on the rules and not give away as many penalties this year.”
Joining Jack was set up by the former Wigan player Andy Johnson to raise funds for research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy, an affliction that struck his son, Jack.
Rugby league’s support for the charity has been considerable, with players like Sam Tomkins, the sport’s costliest player, regularly performing the “JJ” sign after scoring tries.
Even the Olympian cyclist Wiggins, who is a Wigan supporter, gave the interlocking fingers salute when he was on the podium at the 2012 Tour de France.
His absence this time means the side are slightly lighter on celebrity this weekend, but his replacement as drinks carrier will do his best.
“We will still find it hard, but we are here for a good cause and we can’t lose sight of that,” said Offiah, the former Wigan and Great Britain wing.
“There were a lot of names in the team, but quite a lot of us who hadn’t played much rugby since we retired and we had a pretty tough time.
“I’m probably too old now. I’m 48 so I’m a generation ahead of a lot of the guys who are playing, so I’ll just be deejaying at [tonight’s charity dinner] and seeing as Bradley Wiggins isn’t here this year, I’ve put my hand up for that role.”
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